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Work visa proposals a step in the right direction

A set of proposals designed to help regions address their skilled labour shortages, while still ensuring New Zealanders are first in line for jobs, is a step in the right direction, says Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced yesterday that the Government is consulting on proposed changes to employer-assisted temporary work visa settings to ensure that work visas issued reflect genuine regional skill shortages.

The announcement will give employers real optimism about their ability to attract and retain migrant workers, says Ms Watson.

"Skilled migrants are vital for the regional workforce. Projections produced by ChristchurchNZ show that by 2031, Canterbury could be short 70,000 workers under current scenarios and long-term migration trends.

"We agree with the Minister that the current system is overly complex, with a range of different visa options that doesn’t adequately reflect the variations in the labour market at a regional level. The Regional Skills Shortage Lists set to be introduced in April will be a much more effective solution to ensure employers in genuine need are able to access the skills and attributes they need to bolster productivity, and temporary migrants are able to make the most of opportunities in regional areas.

"The Chamber has worked hard to ensure that the concerns of our employers in the region have been heard by Government. This is an excellent starting point from which to make some positive changes and The Chamber will be taking an active part in the submission process."

The proposals released for consultation include:

- Introducing a new framework for all employer-assisted temporary work visas which will be employer-led, rather than migrant-led, and will include checks for employers, jobs and migrants

- Replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists

- Introducing sector agreements with sectors which rely heavily on migrant labour

- Improving alignment of the immigration, welfare and education systems.

The Government will also review some of the changes made by the previous Government to ensure they align with current priorities, including the stand down periods for lower-skilled migrants and family entitlements for lower-skilled workers.

"One of The Chamber’s key focus areas is providing a voice for Canterbury business to help stimulate future sustainable economic growth for our region in the years ahead," says Ms Watson. "We look forward to continuing our work representing Canterbury business interests with the Government to do that."

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